A Palestinian in Havana: Why am I illegal, isn’t it the capital of all Cubans? / Víctor Manuel Domínguez

A "Palestinian" with his residence permit.
A “Palestinian” with his residence permit.

HAVANA, Cuba , September, ww.cubanet.org – Héctor Pulgar Fernández has a temporary residence permit for Havana, but not the right to sell chiviricos (thin strips of cake batter, fried and dusted with sugar), because he has no license to trade. A native of the town Bartolomé Masó, in Granma province, he decided to return to the capital to make a living at anything.

Today he flees from the police, hides, and sells chiviricos to survive and to ensure that if caught will he will not be sent back to the East.

He earned a teaching credential in the Camilo Cienfuegos School in his area, and he taught mathematics to 7th grades in the municipality for 236 Cuban pesos a month, during the 2001-2002 school year. With expectations of success, he accepted a job here for 425 pesos a month.

Dazzled by the promise of good food, shelter and other possibilities among which he could continue to live in the capital, he taught the same subject and grade level, Nené Traviesa, Hermanas Giral and other schools in Havana from 2003-2008. Disappointed, the teacher returned to Bartolome Maso .

“Nothing was as promised. The food was slop, the housing conditions were a shack, and I didn’t stay because when there were enough capital graduates to fill the jobs, I would have to return home. In addition, 400 pesos here don’t last even half as long as 200 there. And what of the 21st Century Mambises,” it’s just a daily battle.

At 28-years-old, married with a young woman who also graduated as a teacher, although working in his native town, Héctor Pulgar Hernández, according to his expression, “had to invent it in the air to survive.”

Determined to get out of what he considers the medieval backwardness there in the mountains of Bartolome Maso, he thought that as a citizen of the country he had the right to seek better employment in “Havana, the capital of all Cubans,” as the official slogan says.

“Everything was a mess. Having no change of direction they did not give me work, and worse, when I went out and the police stopped me, seeing on my ID card where I lived, they told me I was illegal and had to return to my place of origin, or I would get a fine the first time, and the second, I would end up in a cell until they could deport me,” he said.

Back in Granma province he worked in whatever came up, not returning to teaching because of the low wages, the lack of consideration, and great number of activities and other extracurricular work that, more than a teacher, were the work of a member of the Young Communist Union, or what’s worse, a labor union or Party militant.

In 2012 he returned and started selling whatever came up illegally. He was captured by the police and as he was a repeat offender they gave him an official warning that he couldn’t return to the capital for five years, and he was taken to the police station Zapata and C, and from there to the Blanquita detention center, until they filled the train car and he was deported.

On arriving in Bartolome Maso, he fined 350 pesos for illegal movement, and warned that if he returned to Havana, he could expect to go to prison at El Tipico de Manzanillo or Las Mangas , in Bayamo, both in Granma province.

But through bribes he is here, with a temporary residence permit for six months (May 29 – November 29, 2013 ), and as he can’t get work, he sells chiviricos illegally, fleeing the police, hiding, and ensuring that if they don’t catch him he won’t be sent back.

“I’m like a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip or Israel. Without rights. That’s what some people in Havana pejoratively call us. We can not live in the capital of our own nation.”

By Víctor Manuel Domínguez, vicmadomingues55@gmail.com

From Cubanet